On June 12, 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) launched the Global Skills Strategy. The government has issued several press releases stating that the Global Skills Strategy will “make it easier for Canadian business to attract the talent they need to succeed in the global marketplace” and that it will “provide businesses in Canada with a faster way to bring in global talent in order to scale-up and grow — creating better jobs for more Canadians.”
As one person remarked to me, the government’s statements on this strategy contain so much sloganeering and jargon that it is difficult for the average employer and prospective foreign worker to determine what the Global Skills Strategy actually is and who it benefits.
Introducing the Global Talent Stream
The most significant aspect of the Global Skills Strategy is the introduction of the ESDC’s Global Talent Stream. Employers will be eligible for this new work stream if they are hiring unique and specialized talent, and if that talent has been referred to the Global Talent Stream by one of ESDC’s designated partners (e.g., MaRS Discovery District, BDC and more). Employers will also be eligible if they are seeking to hire foreign workers in highly skilled occupations in the technology professions, including computer engineers, information systems analysts, software designers, programmers, web designers, etc.
Faster LMIA processing
There are two main benefits to Canadian employers for participating in the Global Talent Stream. First, ESDC is committing to processing labour market impact assessment (LMIA) applications — which are the applications that employers typically must submit if they wish to hire a foreign national on an employer-specific work permit — within 10 business days. Second, LMIA applications submitted under the Global Talent Stream will not have a minimum recruitment requirement. This means that the time that it takes an employer to get a LMIA will go from typically around eight to 12 weeks, to 10 days.
More expected from employers
The potential disadvantage of participating in the Global Talent Stream is that employers must develop a labour market benefits plan in which they commit to undertake activities that will either create jobs or increase skills and training investments for Canadians and permanent residents. Such activities include increased hiring of Canadians, establishing educational partnerships with post-secondary institutes, establishing internship positions, implementing policies to support disadvantaged groups, directly mentoring Canadians or permanent residents, and so on.
ESDC will monitor the progress of an employer’s labour market benefits plan at regular intervals. While this does not have to be a disadvantage, the prospect of potentially excessive administrative oversight could be a deterrent to participation in the program, especially for smaller businesses.
Two-week work permit processing
Another aspect of the Global Skills Strategy is IRCC’s commitment to a two-week work permit processing standard for applicants who are going to be working in LMIA-exempt positions and are working in a managerial or professional occupation, or for employees whose employers participated in ESDC’s Global Talent Stream.
All prospective foreign workers should determine whether their prospective employment meets the requirements for 10-day processing, as some of the eligible occupations could be surprising. For example, an assistant bar manager from Peru or a Buddhist monk from China would both be eligible for 10-day processing.
New work permit exemptions
Finally, IRCC is introducing two new work permit exemptions. Prospective foreign workers in Canada will no longer need work permits if they will be working in a managerial or professional occupation in Canada and will be working in Canada for 15 consecutive days or less every six months, or 16 to 30 consecutive days every year.
IRCC is also introducing a work permit exemption for researchers who will be conducting research at public post-secondary institutions for 120 consecutive days or less each year.
Time will tell
It is difficult to tell how popular the Global Skills Strategy, and especially the Global Talent Stream, will be. In April 2013, Canada launched the Start-Up Visa program with great fanfare. Four years later, the program is generally recognized as being a disappointment, with most prospective entrepreneurs opting to instead participate in either the Owner-Operator LMIA or Express Entry. Ultimately, the success of the Global Skills Strategy will be depend on whether the government meets its processing commitments, whether other streams are negatively impacted, whether there is an overreaction to a potential public backlash should the number of foreign workers in Canada increase, and whether the employers view the increased government oversight as being worth the recruitment exemption and faster processing times.
Steven Meurrens is an immigration lawyer with Larlee Rosenberg in Vancouver. Contact him at 604-681-9887, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his blog at smeurrens.com.